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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  April 17, 2011 4:00pm-5:00pm EDT

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>> thank you. good to be with you. >> we would like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback. .. >> the state of missouri. if you know anything about journalism, that is one the top two i would say at least schools
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of journalism in the united states. and she also worked as the education editor for the kansas city "missouri star." i'm originally from missouri. i mentioned that. she said where are you from? i'm from raleigh, but my family originated in sedalia. turns out that her hometown too. i'm pleased to introduce a fellow missourian. her bio is very impressive. i wish i had time to read the entire bio. in addition to being the editor, she was a staff writer for the "washington post". she's taught journalism. she's a journalism historian. her particular focus is on washington women journalist, including eleanor roosevelt, and
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the coverage of the first lady. the most recent book is what you will be discussing with us today. eleanor roosevelt, transfortive first lady. maurine? [applause] [applause] >> thank you so much, don. it was really wonderful to kind out that we have the sedalia, missouri connection. his grandfather was mayor of the town that i grew up in. i have a feeling his father actually was a student of my mother, at the high school. i'm going to tell you a little bit about that as i get into my speech on eleanor roosevelt. but i do want to thank dr. ken, vice president for scholarship and education of the united states capitol historical society for asking me to be here today and to say i'm so happy i am a member of this organization
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and have been for many years. we're so fortunate to have a vital historical organization like the united states capitol historical society help us recognize the importance of our heritage as americans. isn't it studying of the past that gives us the strength and vision to press on ward into the future? every time i get into the eleanor roosevelt material and i must say that i and my husband, hank beasley, who has joined me in researching eleanor for many years has been into roosevelt literature for a long, long time. every time that we get into it, we're struck by how much the life of this woman can speak to us today. i hope i'll be able to share a bit of that with you today. i also want to introduce another
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person who we will hear more from later and that's cornelia jane strauser. would you wave? she knew eleanor roosevelt personally, she visited in the white house as a small child, and her mother, ruby black was eleanor roosevelt first biographer and person who had an impact on her career in the white house. i'm so pleased that cornelia is with us and brought a couple of prized items from her personal collection back there on the table. she'll tell you about those. that they relate to the visit of the king and queen of england to the roosevelt in 1939. she'll share her experiences during the question and answer period that will follow my
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remarks. i wonder if there are others in the audience who also have personal recollection of eleanor roosevelt. okay. great. well during the question and answer period, i hope you'll share those too. eleanor is still being written about, you know? she lives from 1884 to 1962. but here we have at least three books that i know of and perhaps there are more on her that have come out within the last five or six months. and people were still writing about her, they are still exploring faucets of her career that have been unemployed. she's still speaking to us. of course, today what i'm going to talk about is the way she spoke to us as first lady. so let me put on my eleanor roosevelt outfit. notice the neck piece. now it was favored by her and
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many other ladies of the day. any of you remember when these were ubiquitous items, upper class families, everybody had one of these. well, i wear this because i like to transport us for a minute or two back to eleanor's era. of course, here i have my prop, here's eleanor, you see. and i would say one of her many traveling outfits, she's carrying her big purse. and here is franklin with his jaunty look. you would never know that he could not walk when he was in the white house -- actually he never could walk after 1921. then he saw this in the supermarket. this was eleanor roosevelt
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refrigerator magnet. you see she's got her fur. then there was their little dog. it was an era dominated by these folks here. so please join me now in picturing a scene that will take us back to the past. this is a drafty old house. i usually just see a small town in missouri, this time i'm going to say in sedalia, missouri. here we have a housewife trying to keep warm at the end of a dull day of housekeeping while reading her favorite columnist in the "kansas city star." suddenly she looks up at her little girl and she says, i am sure that she is better than he is. well, who do you think the she was? eleanor roosevelt. and who is the he? franklin. my family was rock rib
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republican. believe me, they would have fit pretty well with the tea party crowd we have now. but my mother loved reading eleanor roosevelt's "my day" column. do you remember "my day." i see a few heads nod. yeah? why did she like it? it was a column about a woman that was doing something and going places and doing things and making history in washington, d.c. actually, i think my mothers interest in that stimulated me in part to get an education and eventually move to washington myself. years later, when i was asked by lou, who's editor of the modern first lady series that has been featured this month, during these noon time meetings, that write a biography, concentrating
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on how eleanor roosevelt had changed the role of first lady. first lady before eleanor had been hosted and helped it their husbands in various degrees and some of them had been unusual advisors. but eleanor changed all of that. she made the role of first lady much more important one. and i'm going to be talking about that. eleanor, historians will tell us, did not want to be first lady. although she certainly campaigned for franklin in the election in 1932. the first of the four elections in which he was chosen president. why didn't she want to be first lady? most of us would think that was pretty nice, i think. well, because you have to remember that eleanor was a roosevelt before she became a roosevelt. she was eleanor roosevelt
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roosevelt. her uncle was teddy roosevelt who was president of the united states, of course, at the turn of the century. and some say franklin just followed teddy's career. she had seen teddy's wife preside in the white house mainly as a hostess, and she just didn't want to do that. she said, i just don't want to sit in the white house and pour tea. now she would have been perhaps liked to have been a closer advisor to her husband than she was. although she certainly gave him the benefit of her ideas. she never hesitated to offer opinions, but he might or might not expect them. so franklin was elected, she went to franklin and she said, i'm not going to have very much to do as first lady. could i take care of your mail for you?
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actually, that was rather commonly done by political wives in those days. harry truman's wife had worked in his office and taken care of his mail. and the vice president garner's wife also been in his office and helped take care of the mail. that wasn't a truly unusual request. what do you think franklin said? no. of course not. that's missy's job. he was referring to his personal secretary, missy lahan. in fact, history is dubious on this, but it is in the biographies, there is even speculation that eleanor was so upset by thinking of having to be first lady, which she saw as an empty ceremonial role, she didn't want to participate in, that she wrote a letter and in
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that letter threatened to leave franklin and run away with her old miller who i'll show you a picture of in a minute. you got to remember, you know, we think of the people as saints now. they are flesh and blood folks just like us. we don't know for sure if there was such a letter. although there were people who supposedly saw the letter and the letter with supposedly destroyed by louie howe, who was eleanor's great friend and confident. he was also franklin's political genius. how does it happen that the unwilling woman didn't want to be, rewrote the script for first lady from 1933 until 1945 and made the job of first lady part of the white house political communication process as it is
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today? it's a script that all of her successors have had to take note of whether they followed it or not. but most of them have followed it at least in part by finding appropriate causes to interest themselves in and to publicize. now, i argue in the book, that if eleanor became accustomed to being first lady, she saw great possibilities in the role. she saw the possibility of making it a platform, a bully pulpit as her uncle teddy roosevelt had said as the presidency. what a bully pulpit. i can speak to people, i can get attention, well, she saw job position of the first lady in the same way as a bully pulpit. she saw a possibility for communicating with the american people particularly women. we have to remember that eleanor
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was part of the women reformer element of the democratic party in the 1920s and 1930s. she honestly believed in a lot of social causes which she wanted to promote, especially to women. so as she came accustom to being first lady, she realized she could use the white house to draw intention to those causes she believed. one of those was the right of married women, including herself, to pursue a money-making career. i will tell you -- she made a lot of money in the white house too. which we often don't think about that. first lady's since her have written book. nobody has had the kind of money-making career that she had in the white house. now how did she learn to do all of this? or what inspired her to do it? what did she draw ideas from? she didn't have any, you know,
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experts in public relations or spin devices or in focus group kinds of things. she did this herself. but i think she borrowed ideas from a rather small group of personal friends. now what made eleanor roosevelt an upper class? roosevelt family is one the 400 families in new york society. what made her write a newspaper column that related to people like my mother? well, she had a lively intelligence, genuine interest in others, and i think she looked from some of her personal friends a lot about communicating with just average folks like us. let me read you just a little bit of this "my day" column so you get the idea. this is from 1938. it's headlined i felt guilty to
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have missed my hostess. wednesday, washington has bloomed considerably in the week that i have been away. it seems much more like spring here than it did in new york state. at 10:30 this morning, i went out to the university of maryland to give a talk. because this is a land grant college, they have quite a large military force. i drew up in the front of the auditorium, mainly because i was impressed by the number of boys in uniform standing outside the door. does that sound much like a political pundit today? no. what does it sound like that we hear a lot about? i bet you can tell me from the internet. blog. exactly. and it was written like that. very personal kind of thing. so eleanor was communicating with people, she was making the job of the first lady a bully pulpit, and in my opinion, she
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was -- and i have studied this, she was drawing from her -- some degree certainly from the personal relationship that she had with some remarkable, but not the kinds of folks that you would expect aristocratic lady to have. in any event, let me move on and show you some slides that will help illustrate. of course, eleanor roosevelt drew from franklin roosevelt, of course, she built her whole career on being mrs. roosevelt. of course, she helped franklin too, politically. but you notice in this slide which shows eleanor and franklin shortly after their marriage in 1905, there was something in the middle there. who was that? sarah franklin's mother. and look, franklin and sarah are
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looking at each other and eleanor is kind of to the side, isn't she? and sort of the way it was in their marriage. now i think most of us know the story that sarah controlled the family pursestrings. and actually, she tried to tell eleanor who was quite young, she was 21 and married, what to do, and even to the point of trying to supplant her as a mother for eleanor's five children. eleanor had a sixth child who died in infancy. but mama definitely was an influence there. now we know that eleanor and franklin lived increasingly separate lives after she discussed -- she discovered his romance with lucie mercer in
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world war i. one reason, mama said franklin you leave eleanor and the children, i'm going to cut off the money. that made franklin think. and he said, franklin, it's going to ruin your political career if you should leave your family. at any rate, they decided to stay together. we know that eleanor nursed franklin devotedly when he was stricken with paralysis. then as franklin tried to recover from that and went off to warm springs and to the south to try to seek healing there which he never really succeeded in getting because he could never really walk again after the paralysis. eleanor starts her own career too. she begins to write magazine articles which she sold on such
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subjects as women in politics. she begins to get after even the women's division of the new york state democratic party. remember women had just gotten the vote in 1920. this is a new field. she's entering into it. she's becoming part of the network of these new deal women reformers and intellectuals. and then she's teaching school at the exclusive todd hunter school in new york. she could not have taught in public school. she never had an education past a finishing school which she intended in england. so she bought a share of todd hunter. that permitted her to teach there. she gone on -- went on record to say that there's nothing that she'd ever done in her life that she liked as much as teaching. in fact, as first lady, i think she saw herself as a teacher to the american public.
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well, now franklin inspite of not being able to walk is elected governor of new york in 1928. and population probably didn't know how incapacitated he was. historic evidence sort of split on that. anyway, at that time, eleanor accepted the role of his secretary missy lahan as a kind of surrogate wife who could fill in for her and provide franklin with the sort of fluttery feminism attention that he likes and eleanor was good at giving. eleanor finds a companion of her own. that is earl miller. let me show you this slide. now here is the four of them -- the four of them together here. earl miller is the athletic looking man on the end there. next to him is missy lahan, then there's franklin, and eleanor on this side of the picture.
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earl miller was a highway patrolman who was assigned to eleanor as her bodyguard. when franklin was elected governor of new york. they became very close. she brought a sense of fun to the serious-minded eleanor. and here we see in this 1934 home movie taken at hyde park that the two of them are in a little play. and here's earl miller as a pirate. and he's about to kidnap eleanor, the first lady. they were quite close, they would go on walks together, she read poetry to him. she loved doing things for him. even cleaning up his house or his apartment, buying things for him. perhaps like an aunt looking after a favorite nephew. we don't know exactly their
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relationship either. but we do know it was close. but we also know that franklin did not want earl to come to washington as part of the roosevelt entourage in 1933. so he found earl a good government job in new york state. but eleanor and franklin -- i'm sorry, but eleanor and earl continued to be in touch. and eleanor would visit earl while she was first lady. and, in fact, i really believe that miller helped her make that transition to first lady by giving her self-confident. he encouraged her to ride horses, he bought dogs for her to play with, these were kind of obstruction dog, sort of protection to her, and he also taught her how to shoot a gun. because as first lady, eleanor
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refused secret service protection. and so earl taught her how to shoot a gun so she could carry the gun in the glove compartment of her car. miller all during the period that she was first lady, even though he was married and divorced and several times, he offered her relaxation from her high profile life. now once in the white house, of course, eleanor found that she had to play a ceremonial role and here she is in what appears to be a heavily retouched photograph in an inaugural reception outfit. you can see she's the first lady. i wonder how many of us would wear this? she was on the best dress list of women in 1934. she had arrangement with the new york department store arnold constable to wear their attire
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and have a picture taken like this one. that's an arnold constable gown. then the pictures would circulate through the country. i think this was a financially advantageous arrangement for both. the store and eleanor. but now we get to the person who was much more of an influence on her as she transforms the role of first lady than earl miller. we can't see this person too well in this picture. but we get some idea perhaps of the way she kind of hid herself from public view when eleanor was in the white house. but she was definitely there assists eleanor and transforming the ladies of administration. here we see eleanor and then we
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see the women sort of in the background there. that's lorina hiccock. she was assigned to the campaign train. eleanor was there to stand by franklin's side and smile when he gave speeches. the role of the political wife. but hicock wrote a book later "reluctant first lady" which is why we know how much she did not want to be first lady. the two of them found themselves soul mates. lorina was a lesbian. there wasn't any dispute. she and eleanor become very
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attached. to what degree they had a physical relationship, no one knows. and the emotional relationship and hicock helped her in transforming the role. now he and eleanor drove together in that car. they took private vacations together, about six weeks in 1933 and 1934. and the press let them alone. i can't imagine that happening today. but it did then. and here they are at a tourist home in lowell, massachusetts. now he went with her while her husband was in office. this was a trip that eleanor
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made to puerto rico. i want to call your attention in particular to the woman who is standing to eleanor's left -- immediate left because that's ruby black. you know, she has the dress on that has a pattern, definite pattern to it. of course, his mother, and ruby black helped arrange the trip. she is a correspondent for a newspaper in puerto rico. she helped arrange for eleanor to make the trip. the other people with her are devoted admirers of eleanor, newspaper women who covered eleanor's press conferences for women only. lorina who had to leave the associated press because she was so close to eleanor, she had no more journalistic integrity, or
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objectivity, had given eleanor the idea of having press conferences for women reporters only in the white house to give the women something that the men couldn't get. ruby black was extremely involved in these press conferences, and it was because of this women only rule that ruby black was hired by the united press. which in those days had a rule against hiring any women. women were considered capable of being journalist. if they worked for newspapers, they were usually consigned to society news and womens pay, that kind of thing. so ruby black, like the other women, very grateful to eleanor for having these press conferences. eleanor had 347 of them while she was in the white house for women only. the other women represented, well, the women on the end there, emma represented the "new
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york herald tribune" republican newspaper, which objected, but she wrote the loveliest stories about eleanor. next was dorthy, who worked for a hurst newspaper for first hurst was for roosevelt, then he broke with roosevelt. but she went ahead writing the nice articles about eleanor. there's ruby black, on the end, beth who worked first for the associated press and later for the "new york times". these women more or less turned into eleanor's public relations agents because they admire her so personally. hicock like louie howe also advised eleanor in the writing of magazine articles. does anybody remember reading eleanor's question and answer
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column in the lady's home journal, or in mccalls? yeah, good. good. yeah. i still member her advice on smoking. because i was quite interested. should i smoke or not. and eleanor said, she didn't really do it herself. but she thought it was -- that it was a good hostess, she should always provide cigarettes for others. i'm always been glad that i listened to her advice. i never had to stop. i never started. anyway, eleanor was writing for the magazine, bow howe and hicock were helping her sort of furbish, and howe was helping her sell them. it's even believed that hicock gave eleanor the idea for "my day" column. which was quite a popular column at its time. she had a good many more readers
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than some of the men political pundits of the day. you want to see a picture of lorina better? here she and eleanor are going down a street in san juan in puerto rico to inspect conditions there. hicock is the women in the dress with the long tie there by eleanor's side. hicock after leaving the associated press then went to work directly for the roosevelt administration as an under cover investigator of poverty and relief conditions. the roosevelt administration, and franklin is behind it. didn't really believe that the newspapers or the media of the day was telling people the extent of poverty. he wanted independent investigations of how well welfare programs were working, independent investigations of how desperate people really
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were. he wanted a personal source of information. and hicock was one the investigators. there were others who were hired to go out around the country and make these reports that went to harry hopkins who was head of the new deal release efforts and also to franklin himself. and, of course, eleanor saw these reports. so that's -- that was part of their puerto rican trip. now hicock like miller wasn't the member of an upper crust. she was the daughter of a traveling butter maker who had abused her as a child. as a reporter for the associated press, she had learned to write for average people. she encouraged eleanor to write in that kind of style. she also encouraged eleanor who she admired tremendously to see
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herself as a role model for ordinary women. my day column certainly had the ere of one neighbor talking to another. this highlighted many of the communication activities. the advice column for women magazine, the article that she wrote for womens mag -- magazines on a day in the life of white house, the role of women in politics, the role of women in cleaning up conditions in their own communities. that kind of thing. eleanor's paid radio broadcast, her paid lecture tours, of course what she got from the column didn't give her an income. in fact, she earned an average of about $70,000 a year, an average of $70,000 a year. as my husband can it's if i,
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because he's been through her income tax returns, which were fairly recently made available to the public at the roosevelt library. now $70,000 is year in those days is a pretty good salary. especially for a woman. particularly, it was a good salary when you figure that franklin is president of the united states was only making $75,000. in fact, there was one story, i don't think it's true, but i run into it, when eleanor sold the first installment of her biography, this is my story, to the ladies home journal for $75,000, in 1937, she ran through the white house waving the check saying look, look, this is as much as franklin made and i made it myself. doubtful that this actually took place. through there is historical evidence that she really did
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believe that a paycheck validated a women's worth. she opposed legislation that had the effect of forcing women to give up their government jobs when they got married on grounds that wasn't right to have two wage earners in the family. she publicly advocated that ruby black helped with her this too. that married women had the right to hold paid employment. i'll just have to tell you this story, since we started out talking about sedalia. my mother had to give up her job as a high school teacher when she married my father. of course, married woman couldn't be school teachers in those days. anyway, when she told the superintendent of schools that she was getting married, he said, oh my, ms. ironomous, you see what i have left, either those wanted neither by god nor
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man. an awful comment about the unmarried women teachers. but that was sort of the way things were back in that era. well, now, of course, while eleanor is redoing the role of first lady, she's still carrying all of the ceremonial activities. this is the white house christmas card, 1933. she's sitting properly by franklin's side. but she's making history in other ways. here she is showing an interest in african americans. she was really the ambassador of the roosevelt administration to african americans who were unbelievably discriminated against. this a picture 1936 and she is visiting howard university. and the two students on either side are dressed in reserve officer uniforms.
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now this picture caused an outfly from segregationist who used it in the south to attack the racial policies of the roosevelt administration. but on the other hand it, made a great hit in the african-american press of the day which would take pictures like this and run them to show that here you had a first lady who really was sympathetic to the cause of african-americans. now she's traveling all over the country giving speeches. and some of them definitely laid lectures, some were not. off she is accompanied only by one person, her trustworthy secretary, malvina thompson. you see the kind of clothe they war. how they sort of looked matronly. women weren't supposed to have to try to keep young the lay --
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young the way we do today. no matter how old they were. they were expected to press like older ladies. she loved to fly. she traveled about 300,000 miles during her first year, first eight years as first lady, then during world war ii, she was all over the globe visiting service personnel. now here she is knitting in a plane. you know, eleanor was never quiet. if she was sitting down for a minute, she could pull out her knitting needles. this photograph was taken by her son in 1936 and used by the airline industry to try to promote flying among women. and i just have to read you this as my favorite part of this book. and it's short. but let me tell you, here's an usher at the white house, j.b.
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west recalling eleanor racing through the white house, skirts flapping around her legs. they wore long skirts. on her way to numerous apartments, west remembered, she would jump into her waiting car and call out to the driver whereby where am i going? and on her way back, she gathered up people to bring home to lunch. she said she sometimes invited so many, she forget who they were. well, she was a very busy woman. of particular interest to this audience, i think, would be eleanor's interaction with capitol hill. now, of course, she operated behind the scenes as a conduit to place democratic women into positions in the roosevelt administration. she and molly ducin put pressure on james farley who handle the patronage matters to try to find
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jobs for these very well qualified democratic women. but she was the first president's wife to testify before congress. addressing congressional committees on the plight of migrant labor and home rule for the district of columbia. still have that one going. she was the first to hold the government office. she was pointed assistant director of civil service in 1941 and '42. it was a bad situation. she did not prove herself a good administrator, she put some people in -- at jobs that seemed rather strange such as teaching dancing in air raid shelters. the press laughed her out of that job. but she never really took responsibility for the fact that she had made some mistakes in her "my day" column she said
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after she resigned. people can gradually been brought to understand that an individual, even if she is an president's wife, may have individual views and must be allowed to have an opinion. but actual participation in the work of the government, we are not yet able to accept. and, in fact, several times she was asked particularly in her later yeared if she was interested in being president. she said, no, she didn't think the country was ready for a women president. it seems to have taken us a long time to get to the point where we might be. okay. i'm going to move carefully quickly here. because we want time to talk among ourselves. but i'll show you some of the other slides that show her transforming the role of first lady. here she is talking to the democratic national convention in 1940.
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the convention is about to rebel because it doesn't want the choice of wallace as vice president. he was called in to make a speech. she made such a stirring speech, intimating as a country was about to go to war and that the person in charge, the commander in chief needed the people he could believe in to help him that the delegates went along with roosevelt's wish and nominated wallace. here she's accounting fdr and guess who? sarah? and her oldest son, jimmy roosevelt and his wife betsy on a tour of a battleship, preworld war i, on a more substantial note, here she is addressing a national conference on the problems of negro use in 1939 with audrey williams, head of the national youth administration. and mary mccloud basoon who
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was the highest ranking women in the roosevelt administration. do any of you by any chance participate in programs of the national youth administration? sometimes i talk to people. they say this is how i got through high school. this is a program to offer work study and let them stay in school during the tale end of the depression and the start of world war ii when it then changed into training people to work in defense industries. we know that eleanor was very instrumental in setting this national youth administration up. and, in fact, fdr himself referred to it as the misses organization. here he is at camp obello, at a summer leadership training institute of the national student service. notice this is an integrated
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group. that was very rare for the day. unfortunately, we do not see joe lash in this picture. she was the executive -- general secretary of the international student service. but joe lash was the third person who i think was very instrumental in the way she transferred the role of first lady. joe lash was a jewish man, graduate of columbia university, intellectual who was very involved in the left student movement in the late 1930s. somehow he became one of her closest after her relationship with hicock waned in the late 1930s. now as a representative of the press because of her "my day" column, she attended hearings of the house un-american activities committee at which lash who played a leading and controversial role in his
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leftist youth organizations testifyied. lash first was a communist, or communist sympathizer. then he broke. lash said the two of them had a moral affinity. he introduced her to the nations of communist within social movements. and eleanor benefited from hiss political savvy as he discussed the way in which communist operated was in these movements. and years later, as the united nations, she said she didn't have that much trouble dealing with the russians because she had learned about the communist when she had been first lady. she learned a lot, i think, from joe lash. by now accustomed to making the role of first lady one of really significance as a traveling ambassador for the first -- for
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the roosevelt administration, during world war ii, she makes enormous number of visits. in fact, she's away from washington so much that the washington newspaper has a headline. mrs. roosevelt stayed in the white house over night. here she is visiting enlisted men at a base in the island off of the coast of ecuador during a world war ii morale building trip to latin mesh. here she is in england inspecting troops. she's certainly the first first lady to do this thing. she's traveling without franklin. in washington, she and mary mccloud are visiting a resident for african-american women war workers. once again, eleanor is making history by showing that she and the roosevelt administration really care in the plight of people who are at the margins of
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society. but she continues to play her official role at white house hostess too. here's she entertained in 1943. well, we all know the end of the story of eleanor's first lady. fdr died in 1945 unexpectly. guess who is with him? lucie mercer, the old girlfriend. eleanor is appointed u.s. delegate to -- by the -- i'm sorry is appointed u.s. delegate to the united nations by president truman. and she is instrumental in the creation of this document, one the most important documents of the 20th century. universal declaration of human rights. we would not have that document if it had not been for eleanor's genius in dealing with the communist and with the other political players at the united
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nations. so let me just conclude by saying that i personally think and try to make the case in the book that eleanor's ability to turn the relative passive role of first lady into a vibrant one of activism stems in part from the close relationship she has with people who are outside of the normal aristocratic circle of an upper class woman. these people, well, joe lash in particular, but other people too, the women newspaper reports that she knew, women like ruby black, and, of course, louie howe, who unfortunately died in 1946. they all help her transform a position that she didn't really want. a job of first lady and make it
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into a position of importance in the american presidency. and in that spirit, i think she inspires us all to see the possibilities maybe within our own lives for doing what we can. i just like to end this with a quote from eleanor's book that she wrote in 1960. you learn by living. you gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. you must do the thing you think you cannot do. here she didn't think she could be first lady. but she did very well. thank you. [applause] [applause]
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>> now i'd like to call on mrs. assistancer -- mrs. strauser to tell us about her experience. >> well, you know, it was peripheral. you will discover in the book that my mother traded shamelessly on her relationship with mrs. roosevelt. you know, not only continued for me to go to the childrens parties at the white house, but the birthdays, and then bragged about it in the newspapers afterwards. and it is somewhat embarrassing, i think. and my -- a lot of my acquaintanceship was reading the "my day" column which has a young person, i tended to think were pretty boring.
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i often didn't notice as one would notice looking back that in the pro fundraiser with a barb in it. like, for example, if she was dealing -- if she was discussing the subject of cardinal smell. there were things i didn't understand sometimes. this is boring nice lady that takes up a lot of my mother's time. but, you know, i certainly admired the things she did. >> at one point when i was in high school, i should spend my spring break in new york. i got on a train and went up to new york. i was met by family retainers, spent a couple of days in the department on washington square. i helped the butler walk around
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the block. this is the united nations when she was working on this declaration and observed the debates in which she held her own so constantly against the soviets. then we went up and she's just sort of put me along in anything that she was doing, including the visit. which was one of her causes. this was a residential school for at risk urban boys. they were all black, i think. and, you know, she brings me into the school and visiting. i thought i had never -- i was raised in virginia. i had never been in a place with so many little black boys. but they -- the thing that i realized from that was the great amount of -- she had a lot of personal charisma.
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she had more charm than you would think of from reading what she wrote. if you remember this book, you will say ruby black had a crush on eleanor roosevelt. i will say, yes, she is. eleanor was the kind of person that you get a crush on. she was the kind of camp counselor that i developed a crush on, you know, when i was 12 in the camping. she had that kind of attractive personality. i think they always have had it. and that was part of why she caught franklin. you know, she was not quite the ugly duckling that she liked to portray herself as. so by the way, you know, something i just realized, and i had not internalized it before about the press conferencing. with all that she did for black
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people, there were no negro women. >> that's right. and there were efforts of -- by black women reporters to get in. and eleanor would have accepted that. but steve earl, who was i think a racist, he was franklin's press secretary. if you let them in to your conferences, we're going to have to let them into our conferences. and they kept them out. they, you know, spoke of people that way. they, meaning african-american. >> yeah, she sort of set up a completely different channel into the negro community. >> yes, she did. she was a great ambassador for the administration. because franklin, you didn't want to pass or make an effort to pass adding lynching legislation which was definitely needed because he didn't want to antagonize the southern democratic congressman over here in the capitol.
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so franklin really didn't do all that much for african-americans. but the fact that she was out there trying to do something spoke a lot to people. would you like to talk about your experience? >> well, i didn't know eleanor. but when i was a teenager, i played in a band. and i would totally apolitical. my parents would have been republican. and my father probably hated fdr. because he came from the amish community. he didn't believe in social services and probably didn't believe in the new deal and all of that stuff. but anyway, we played for i assume a political activity. and she was the star. and so she came up and shook hands with each of us. and now as i think back to that, i think how wonder it was of her to take the time to do that. we weren't voters. we were just kids. i'm sure she had many important people to talk to.
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we were not among those. but she took time to shake hands and talk to each of us. >> lovely. do we have questions or comments? yes. >> in relation to what you said about african-american relationships, in new york, there was a newspaper, and i think it was the afro american, but i'm not sure. pardon me, the amsterdam news. langston hughes had a column in the newspaper, he had a spokesman, a simple kind of guy that she named semple. and the title was semple says. one the things i remember reading about was semple says let's kill off of the white
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folks, expect eleanor roosevelt. >> do we have other questions or comments? >> yes? >> okay. question is she had five children, did she spend time with them? >> in common, when the children were little, she turned over a lot of their care to nurses and hired help. in the later years of her life, one the reasons that she traveled so much was to go around and see a lot of her children. they were scattered all over the country and always in some sort of trouble which made some sort of embarrassing headline in the newspaper. >> what exactly? >> well, elliot roosevelt never went to college. he was kind of a bad boy. but he could get very good jobs. and then the republicans would
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say, he's just trading on his father's name. he probably was. and some of the children would hired by political opponents of the roosevelts, sort of to embarrass the roosevelt. but also to get, i guess, kind of keep a foot in the white whie house. hurst hired anna and the daughter to run the newspaper. i think if her name had been smith, this employment would not have taken place. so generally the -- headlines had to do with their job or, of course, their divorces. because they had a tremendous number of divorces. i think 19 divorces, is that? >> i'm not sure. >> well, we tallied them up for a book we did roosevelt. divorce was a much bigger


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